BVT staff are earning awards for going above and beyond the call of duty
Behind every successful student at Blackstone Valley Tech is a caring teacher and talented support staff. The faculty and full team at BVT are consistently going above and beyond the call of duty to help lift students to their fullest potential. Recently, a variety of BVT teachers and staff were recognized for their contributions to student success.
Teachers Who Go the Extra Mile
Classroom 256 is a hub of activity and support for the students of BVT. It is home to Nicole St. Hilaire’s Career Enrichment classroom, as well as the school’s Gay Straight Alliance club, Multicultural club, and HYPEDD initiative. The classroom is always occupied with students who sit comfortably among the motivational posters, assignment notices, and greeting cards that decorate it.
The greeting cards spread across her desk and tucked into its top drawer are filled with notes from current and former students thanking St. Hilaire for her commitment to the current and future success of the students she teaches. It’s not uncommon for St. Hilaire to hear from students after graduation updating her about their new adventures and experiences. A recent letter from Westfield State University was one part alumni update and one part award nomination.
The letter from Westfield State informed St. Hilaire that she had been nominated by a former student to be honored at the school’s annual celebration of teachers. Each year the Education Department at Westfield State University asks students to reflect upon teachers who “have supported and shaped their vision of excellence in teaching.”
St. Hilaire’s nomination noted her compassionate and caring nature, her willingness to stay after hours to help students, and her desire to help students with the problems they’re facing both inside and outside of school.
“You have changed the lives of so many people, some in small ways and some in larger ways,” the nomination said.
The award ceremony recognizing St. Hilaire and a variety of other teachers was held at Westfield State on December 5. The intimate gathering gave students the opportunity to thank their teachers and receive advice from them to jumpstart their teaching career.
“The whole event was inspiring,” St. Hilaire said. “Often we don’t realize the ways we help students beyond simply teaching the material. It was a great night and I walked away thinking, ‘This is why I do what I do.’”
St. Hilaire didn’t plan on becoming a teacher when she entered the workforce. She began working at Blackstone Valley Tech as a substitute in the counseling officer.
“The moment she started here, we knew we had to snatch her up,” said Rebecca Swasey, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at BVT. “She’s so student focused and kind and we could just see her potential.”
The administrative team presented St. Hilaire with the opportunity to be a Career Enrichment teacher, a position that would allow her to use her counseling skills while also teaching students the skills needed to be employable in the 21st century. She accepted the position and has never looked back.
“Nicole has changed so many students’ lives in such a short amount of time,” said Swasey. “It’s an honor to have her as part of the BVT staff, and we’re ecstatic to see her work be recognized by former students and Westfield State University.”
A Spotlight on Safety
Upon first meeting Mr. John Kelly, one is struck by his calm disposition and all-seeing eye. Kelly is the safety-guru in the Information Technology program at BVT often correcting students’ actions and praising their vigilance. The way Kelly works tirelessly to ensure the safety of the students in his classroom, as well as the students throughout the school district, is a testament to his love of teaching and passion for the welfare of students.
In December, Kelly was recognized by CareerSafe, an organization dedicated to delivering safety education for America’s future, for his commitment to educating students about workplace safety. Kelly was featured in several CareerSafe publications including their website and print magazine, and drew praise from the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators for the accomplishment.
While teaching at BVT, Kelly saw a need for a safety protocol upgrade within his program, as well as surrounding programs. Kelly thought it was important to stay ahead of safety issues and grow safety protocols in accordance to the technology and resources available to the district. He worked with a team of seven instructors and support staff to reform shop safety guidelines at Valley Tech so as to utilize all resources and prevent accidents before they could occur.
The team standardized safety procedures throughout the school deciding all students and shops should understand how to safely and accurately use typical tools like screwdrivers. Kelly and his team created online courses for students that teach general safety knowledge, so that all students have the same clear expectations and understanding of safety procedures. The safety procedures and courses are introduced on the first day of school in every shop as part of the plan to present clear expectations. The team also understood the specific safety challenges different shops faced, so they created individualized shop online safety courses in conjunction with team leaders to make the programs the most effective for students and staff.
CareerSafe recognized Kelly for the strides towards workplace safety he’s made in his own classroom. The students are graded on safety and cleanup each day. If they are spoken to about a safety violation, their grade could suffer. In order to truly teach the students about safety, each student is asked to self-evaluate their safety and cleanup each day. The shop teacher then sits down with the student and gives them feedback on their evaluations. This gives the students and the staff an easy opportunity for instant feedback.
Kelly’s drive to educate students about safety stems from witnessing many horrible, preventable accidents during his young adulthood. Kelly will do anything to protect his students from the same fate.
“The kids think they’re indestructible, but one accident can change a life,” he said.
The CareerSafe spotlight showcases Kelly’s drive to bring safety to all students, and the success he is finding with his lessons.
A+ Valley Tech Staff
The staff at Valley Tech are continuously working to better themselves in order to help better the students they serve. Along with St. Hilaire and Kelly, a variety of other members of the Valley Tech staff have received accolades.
The College Board recently selected three academic staff members, English teacher Timothy Freitas, English teacher Scott Diesenhaus, and Math teacher Brian Lehtinen, to be AP Readers for the College Board. The selection process is rigorous, and the three Valley Tech staff members will be among about 15,000 teachers and college faculty members from around the world to gather in June to score the free-response sections of the AP Exams.
As the Class of 2017 begins the final stretch towards graduation, the teachers and staff at BVT are reminding them that their education does not have to end with their diploma. Through the staff’s hard work, determination, and willingness to go the extra mile, they are helping students succeed now and in the future.
submitted by BVT